Relaxin sounds like a luscious blended drink enjoyed on the beach, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. However, I think that after my workout today, this green smoothie tasted almost certainly better than that beachy drink.
Relaxin, the hormone, does what it implies but only it works on ligaments, arteries and the musculoskeletal system, unfortunately not on stress reduction. It’s present in both males and females but is most effective in pregnant women. During pregnancy, it relaxes intrauterine ligaments and increases arterial capacity preventing the boosted blood supply from sending blood pressure off the chart; it gives more flexible joints and more curvature in the back to prepare for carrying and delivering a baby.
At week 17 relaxin hit me like a Mack truck. This gave me the feeling that my pelvis was falling to pieces. Sneezing was especially interesting. Feeling a sneeze coming, I’d try to grab a hold of something thinking that would help, but each sneeze felt like a small explosion in my low back, sacrum and pelvis. Standing up straight was nearly impossible and no position: sitting, standing, lying down, or turned upside down brought relief. I started to think that if I keep up at this rate this baby will walk out of the womb in March.
With running derailed, a week of pain while moving, sneezing, and just generally doing life started to make me think that another ultra marathon sounds sort of, well… “Fun!” Not exactly what I was thinking during the latter part of this California 50-miler.
I ran two ultras in 2007. The first was just to say, “I did.” The second was only because I happened to win the first one, including: flights, hotel, free race entry and a chauffeur. As I’m pretty sure the only flatlander on an extremely hilly route, I was highly unprepared. The last 20 miles (of 50) my face took on this constant grizzled-looking scrunch, and I remember there being lots of tears. Around the final mile I stretched my arms out, I don’t know why but I guess to look “loose” at the finish. Upon doing this, my nervous system went berserk, causing sort of a feeling of electrocution from my fingertips up to my shoulders. “Fun” was not crossing my mind here or thereafter, as evidenced by my face in the picture below. (That’s my dad with his binocs, not sure what to say to encourage me in this state).
Yet after two weeks, things are truly relaxing, and I’m feeling a little more myself. Today I took to the treadmill and put in five miles running followed by some sweet drills. Running doesn’t necessarily feel good but these treadmill drills do. I picked these up from Beau at Rocky Mountain Performance in Trinidad, CO. He’s a master athletic trainer and a brilliant sprint trainer.
As a warm up or cool down, start walking forward with an incline of about 7.5 +/- (this will remain constant, the pace will change); start with the pace set to about 3.5. Walk for 2-4 minutes. Next, decrease the pace to about 2.2 – 2.5 and carefully turn to the side.
Keep your toes and knees pointing forward.
Think: step-reach, step-reach instead of hopping.
If you feel like you need to hop then slow the pace. Step-reach with nice long strides on this side for 2 minutes (and increase time as you progress or need). Next, turn backwards, walk backwards with nice long, reaching strides for 2-4 minutes.
Finally, turn to the opposite side and do the same step-reach for equal time.
These drills build hip stability which many runners lack but need. Sprinters become more efficient in form with more hip stability and thus faster. Distance runners are no different. My theory is that if you suffer from sciatica, sacroiliitis, or an increase in relaxin (not a theory) this may be a nice workout for you. Or if you’re perfectly well, then this will only develop your hip strength and make you an even meaner machine.